Thursday 27 October 2016

'He was once a dear, dear friend' - David Walsh responds to Paul Kimmage's criticism of his coverage of Team Sky

Published 26/09/2016 | 20:57

Paul Kimmage
Paul Kimmage

Renowned journalist David Walsh has reacted to the criticism directed towards him by Paul Kimmage over his coverage of Team Sky and the controversy surrounding Bradley Wiggins.

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Wiggins' use of the powerful anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone on the eve of the 2011 and 2012 Tours and 2013 Giro d'Italia was revealed when a group of Russian computer hackers starting leaking the medical data of dozens of top athletes almost a fortnight ago.

The 36-year-old British star applied, and was granted, three therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to take the drug to deal with a pollen allergy that aggravates his long-standing asthma condition.

But triamcinolone has also been widely used as a doping agent by riders, including Lance Armstrong, and is believed to help athletes lose weight, fight fatigue and aid recovery.

Wiggins' TUEs, which were stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency's computer servers by the so-called 'Fancy Bears international hack team', were approved by cycling's world governing body the UCI and there is no suggestion that he or the team have broken any rules.

But that has not stopped both the rider and Team Sky facing a barrage of criticism from inside and outside the sport, particularly given the team's much-publicised "zero tolerance" attitude towards doping, and Wiggins' own comments about drugs cheats and the use of needles in his autobiographies.

Kimmage heavily criticised Walsh's positive coverage of Team Sky and his assertions that they were clean after he was granted access to the outfit in 2013 in his Sunday Independent column yesterday and admitted that the pair fell out over it.

He told Off The Ball on Newstalk: "We had a screaming match, not an argument, a screaming match. The relationship is dead. It's over, that's it, finished."

Responding on Newstalk Drive today, Walsh said: "Paul and I have had a tremendous friendship going back 30 years. I told Paul at one time when he had publicly criticised me on social media, I asked him to come to me first with criticism, and then if he felt the answer wasn't to his liking, that he could then go public. But at least he would have heard my point of view.

"I told Paul 'I will never criticise you in public because we've had too much shared experiences. So remember if you do it to me, you'll be hitting a guy whose hands are by his side and will never hit back'. And I won't criticise Paul Kimmage. He's a tremendous journalist, he was once a dear, dear friend of mine. I wouldn't have had three friends I was closer to than Paul Kimmage and the last thing I would ever want to do is criticise the guy."

Walsh went on to say that the revelations made by the Fancy Bears hack show that Wiggins had an unfair advantage over his competitors.

"Although Bradley Wiggins has a fantastic record at the Olympics, his greatest achievement was becoming the first Briton to win the Tour de France," Walsh added.

"So the Tour de France was the No 1 thing on his honours list and now it's tarnished because he got a drug that it's very hard to see the justification for him being given that amount of a corticosteroid by injection when it was four days before the start of the 2012 Tour de France.

"In medical terms, it has been a treatment for pollen-related allergies. But the medical world before 2011 when Bradley Wiggins started taking this, it had gone into disrepute. Even the medical world were saying this drug is too extreme at therapy for pollen-related allergies and had gone away from it. So for the doctor of Team Sky to apply for this, for the UCI to authorise it and for Bradley Wiggins to have it, in my view it was just plain wrong and in my view the likelihood is it gave Bradley Wiggins a performance-enhancing advantage." 

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